Harvard University Cambridge

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The schools have a vast amount of wealth. Michael Hicks/Flickr

Harvard University's endowment is expected to lay off half of its staff and outsource management of most of its $35.7 billion assets, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.

The announcement comes after its one-year investment return for fiscal year 2016 was -2.2%. It has been performing poorly since the 2008 economic crisis and its returns have been near the bottom for the Ivy League. 

Universities, and the portfolio managers who invest their funds, note that endowment growth provides major funds for a school's operating budget. 

The portfolio earnings are also a highly competitive venture, and the schools are closely watched, just like competitive Wall Street funds, with schools jockeying to produce the best portfolio results. 

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Many of the universities with largest endowments have already released their 2016 endowment figures, allowing comparison of earnings.

To get a better sense of the investment gains, first take a look at the universities ranked by their 2016 endowment size. Of note: We haven't included info from The University of Texas Investment Management Co., which manages the endowment pools of both the University of Texas and Texas A&M University systems, but did not report the returns broken out separately. The firm has about $37 billion in assets. 

BI Graphics_How much the richest colleges in America earned in endowmentsSamantha Lee/Business Insider

Below, they are ranked by their investment returns.

BI Graphics_How much the richest colleges in America earned in interest returns 2

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Samantha Lee/Business Insider

As you can see, while Harvard has the largest endowment in the world, it had the weakest returns in 2016. It posted five- and 10-year returns of 5.9% and 5.7% respectively, still lagging behind peers. Yale, for example, posted a 10-year return of 8.1%